The Traditions of Thanksgiving

The story always starts the same way. A ship, the Mayflower leaves Europe and sails for religious freedom (not to be confused with freedom from religion which came almost 400 years later)

The ship carried 102 passengers and it took over two months to make the crossing. Bad weather and the usual oceanic thrills and danger. They missed their destination at Plymouth (Not Belvedere as has been put forth) They had to sail across Massachusetts bay from Cape Cod a month later. Those pilgrims consisted of Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, Quakers, Presbyterians, Protestants and a few Jews.

There was a genuine deliverance, providential and we are sure, astonishing. Many of the ‘Pilgrims’ as they began to known, died in that first year and in 1621 the first feast began with about 90 of the Wampanoag natives with fish, venison (Five deer) Eels, shellfish, stews, veggies and beer. They fired guns, and drank liquor to seal the treaty of peace.

The treaty lasted till King Phillips war (1675 -1676) when a lot of colonists and natives lost their lives. About 54 years of peace. It was a war between the colonists and indigenous peoples. America’s bloodiest war as 30% of the colonists were killed (2500) and a dozen towns destroyed. About 5000 Wampanoag’s were killed. The head of the natives was Metacong known as Prince Phillip!

The colonists, of course, continued to pray and thank God for provision.

When the American Constitution was enacted in 1798, (221 years ago) Congress left celebrating to the states. Finally on October 3, 1863 President Lincoln proclaimed Thursday November 26th. In 1942 president Roosevelt declared the 3rd Thursday in November to give an extra boost to the merchants for another week of Christmas shopping! The Thanksgiving holiday 130 years ago had feasts coupled with the Yale vs Princeton football game (1876) In 1920 costumed revelers and Gimbals department store had a parade with Santa Claus. In 1924 the Macy’s parade, also in NYC had huge balloons.

Now the celebration is focused on Intercultural peace, immigrants and home and family.

Canada has their Thanksgiving on the 2nd Monday in October. It began in 1578 for the thank fullness of Sir Milton Frobisher’s crew surviving. It was on November 6th from 1879 and changed in 1957 to the 2nd Monday in October. 442 years ago. Also thanking God for survival,They celebrated with salt beef and mushy peas. (This was 43 years before the Mayflower arrived.)

Alexander Hamilton, a founding father and Washington’s companion declared “No citizen of the U.S. Shall refrain from Turkey on Thanksgiving day” So, now we consume 45 to 46 million on Thanksgiving. Hamilton was killed in a duel by Aaron Burr. The usual Thanksgiving meal at this time was turtle soup, pigeon pie, hogs ears and stewed eels. Turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie seems a more pleasant menu. Jack’s sense of taste has not been the same since he had the Wuhan flu. He just could not do justice to the eels.

The turkey is odd, the first presidential ‘pardon’ of a turkey destined for the table was made by President Bush in 1989. It was remanded to a farm to live out it’s life there. Ostensibly uncooked.

Who knows how it turns out for a turkey that has a presidential pardon? Which would taste better? A Republican or Democratic turkey? The tradition of President Washington continues today. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

One thought on “The Traditions of Thanksgiving

  1. Great summary of events. One item may need clarification. The second paragraph (last line) seems to imply that Anglicans and Catholics and Lutherans etc. were all on board the Mayflower. I am fairly certain (though I could certainly be wrong!) that the entire 102 passengers aboard the mayflower were theologically confessionally united. So much so, that they had regular worship services aboard the ship – all under leadership of their pastor – John Robinson – who though he did not go with them, had established elders (one of whom was William Brewster) and deacons for the church who sailed to the new world. They were a church unto themselves and objected strongly to many of the doctrines of the established religious hierarchies of the day.
    It is true that a few years later, the freedom of state control that the pilgrims sought – allowed for the flourishing of all of the aforementioned churches to be established in the new colonies – and so, in this way, Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans etc. were part of the pilgrims in the new world. (moreover, a few of the individuals who were already present in the new world before the pilgrims arrived were nominally part of many of those groups).
    In a sense, America, as we know it, all was present aboard that ship. They brought the idea of religious freedom that allowed for each to thrive in this new land.
    Thanks for the beautiful summary of events as we prepare to celebrate the Lord’s provision in the land of the free and the home of the brave.


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